Tuesday, May 22, 2018

There's a pattern: similar and disturbing

It's difficult to miss the new scandal that has hit USC. This time it involves a USC student health doctor who, despite serious allegations of sexual abuse, was allowed to continue to practice for decades - until he was allowed to quietly resign with a nice severance package last year, rewarded, as it were for his incompetence, unprofessionalism and criminal behavior. This incident comes a year after the previous high profile USC scandal which involved another doctor, the dean of the medical school, who also served as a fundraiser, but who nourished a meth habit and desire to party with other drug addicts (often in Orange County!).

The official silence is all a part of protecting the USC brand at the expense of students, faculty and staff, part of a culture of lies and cover-up that contradicts the very mission and values of an educational institution. And, of course, that culture of lying cover-up mentality allows the culture to flourish: few, if any, have to be held publicly accountable and so it goes until the next scandal.

USC is, of course, not alone.  This knee-jerk protect the brand at all costs attitude can be seen across the country: Penn State and Michigan state come most immediately to mind.

But of course, denizens of SOCCCD and the little college in the orange groves can also recognize this pattern: poor judgement and bad behavior; the cozy ambition of nepotism; a stubborn failure to correct; an even more stubborn resistance to critique; the casual acceptance (even official enforcement) of sexism, racism and homophobia; etc. - and then, when inevitably (weeks, months, sometimes years later) the behavior cannot be ignored, the person at the scandal's center is allowed to quietly resign (sometimes financially rewarded, like USC's Tyndall) or is given another position (Often in the classroom! Thus putting others, most often students, at risk. Imagine rewarding a dean who could not behave professionally with teaching faculty by putting him in a classroom setting with students!).

Just as when district and college projects and initiatives fail or are poorly managed, rarely are the full, true circumstances acknowledged publicly - the official silence prevails, and the culture that created the problem continues to grow, perhaps even becoming more petulantly defiant. Those offending people are either removed from the official narrative or given historical revision makeovers - and thus the institution does not learn. It doesn't have to. Then it repeats its mistakes. It becomes a bad student.

Rebel Girl recommends the LA Times coverage of the Tyndall affair which inspired this morning rant, especially Robin Abcarian's column. Rebel Girl has been a fan of Abcarian for years and once she is done writing this post, plan to write yet another appreciative fan letter to the longtime Times columnist, this time also urging her to take a look at the SOCCCD and its history of shuffles and disappearances. Rebel Girl understands that we are pretty small potatoes compared to USC, but you know, the pattern is similar and disturbing.

Momentum builds against president of USC, where scandals were hidden by Robin Abcarianexcerpt:

The chorus of condemnation against USC is getting louder by the day. Students, recent graduates and faculty members have all launched crusades against an administration they see as indifferent to the well-being of its charges, unworthy of their trust and incapable of transparency when it is needed most. I have watched with dismay as USC brass have again and again either covered for highly placed men engaged in despicable behavior, tried to whitewash their own inaction, or have stonewalled legitimate journalistic inquiries. This pattern, finally, is taking its toll...

Why are so many misconduct complaints falling on deaf ears at USC? by the Times Editorial Board
....Despite the seriousness of the misconduct, the university didn't report any of these findings to law enforcement or to the Medical Board of California, the agency responsible for protecting the public from problem doctors, until Times reporters began asking questions.
The university insists that it was not legally obligated to report Tyndall, but concedes that it should have done so. Of course it should have — reporting Tyndall to the appropriate authorities could have triggered an investigation into the allegations and helped alert future employers and patients to the doctor's record...
Faculty members call for USC president to step down: 'He has lost the moral authority to lead'
Two hundred USC professors on Tuesday demanded the resignation of university President C. L. Max Nikias, saying he had "lost the moral authority to lead" in the wake of revelations that a campus gynecologist was kept on staff for decades despite repeated complaints of misconduct.

In a letter to USC's Board of Trustees, the faculty members wrote that they had come together to "express our outrage and disappointment over the mounting evidence of President Nikias' failure to protect our students, our staff, and our colleagues from repeated and pervasive sexual harassment and misconduct."
USC's Dr. Carmen Puliafito (via LA Times)

Time's up for this kind of stuff, or so Rebel Girl likes to think, but who knows?


Anonymous said...

Looks like rain on Thursday. Will commencement be moved inside?

Anonymous said...

USC faculty were able to take action ONLY because the LA Times was able to report on what happened. The USC administration blocked and resisted every move and fought the press every step of the way. But the truth prevailed. Our college community could use a vigorous free press for so many issues. We do not have one now which allows them to bury so much.

Anonymous said...

This is why people in power (e.g. Trump) so often malign the media. USC trashed the Times coverage until they couldn't avoid the truth - at the expense of students.

Anonymous said...

Public acknowledgement of problems and mistakes is important to create trust and to prevent repetition of the same mistakes. However it's often seen as weakness.

Anonymous said...

Watching USC crash and burn through the years is a lesson. A fill-on institutional failure. An institution that values top-down corporate values over human ones. An institution that sacrifices its students' welfare for profits and public image.

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the coming days: faculty vs. the entrenched USC power structure. It's an old story, and yes, one played out here, when things go wrong, few are willing to acknowledge it. The worse things go, the less that is said. Then they do it again.

Anonymous said...

Robin Abacarian let them have it again this morning:


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